Tuesday, November 27, 2012

From the Archives: The New York Herald Building, Then and Now

Today our 34th Street archivist, Anne Kumer, delves a little deeper into the history of the New York Herald building. This post also appears on NYC Circa.

The New York Herald building at West 35th Street where Broadway meets Sixth Avenue, was a two-story building designed by Stanford White of architecture firm McKim, Mead & White. White was commissioned to build it for friend James Gordon Bennett Jr. to house the new Herald offices when the paper moved uptown from Park Row in 1894. The story of the Herald and its founders are here, here, and here.

Photo: MCNY
The Herald had offices in this building until Bennett Jr.’s death in 1918. Soon after, Frank Munsey bought the paper and merged it with the New York Sun to create the Herald-Sun. The new combo-paper’s offices were moved to West 42nd Street. 

The north half of the building was demolished in 1921, leaving only the southern part, statues intact on the  building’s façade. 

Photo: MCNY
Eventually, in 1930, a new, 24-story office building was designed and built where the northern half used to be, by the architecture firm Clinton & Russell. The firm was founded in 1894, the same year the Herald building was completed (weird coincidence!) by Charles Clinton and William Hamilton Russell.

Photo: Berenice Abbott via the  NYPL and MCNY
In the 1930s the Sixth Avenue Group (a business improvement group of sorts) sponsored a contest to re-design and “beautify” the area following construction of a new underground subway line and station, and the razing of the Sixth Avenue elevated line. The low rise portion of the Herald building was completed in 1940. I’m pretty sure that "completed" meant that the building was stripped of its Stanford White-designed façade work and given the 1940s-1950s simple (sterile) treatment. The front windows are much larger in the new building, and the ground floor looks lower, but I think the building's original bones are still there. That same year, the James Gordon Bennett memorial was installed in Herald Square in the form of a 40 ft. tall monument, unveiled during a dedication ceremony on November 19, 1940. 

Postcard from the collection of Dan Pisark
Herald Square and the surrounding area went into a decline in the 1970s and 1980s, but were brought back to life with a late 1990s renovation by the 34th Street Partnership (ed. note: Fashion Herald is a blog managed by the Partnership)

Additional Sources:
Kruger, Richard. The Paper: The Life and Death of the New York Herald Tribune
“Sixth Ave. Group to Beautify Parks,” NYT, March 24, 1939
“Frank A. Munsey Buys the Herald and the Telegram,” NYT, January 15, 1920


Ginny P said...

I'm surprised the 34th Street Partnership would let inaccuracies slip by on this blog entry.

1) the Herald did not merge with The Sun but with The Tribune to become the Herald-Tribune. The Tribune was founded by Horace Greeley who is commemorated in Greeley Square across the bow tie from Herald Square.

2) the southern half of the original Herald building designed by Standford White was not stripped and given the 1940s design, but was completely demolished and replaced.